In To the Highlands, the second instalment in a trilogy entitled ‘One Boy’s Journey to Man’, Jon Doust provides a gripping examination of racism and male sexuality in 1960s Australia.
In the novel’s opening pages, Jack Muir arrives on some unnamed ‘islands’ to take up a banking job. Muir is barely out of high school. His early days in his new surroundings are marked by drunken carousing that, in turn, affects his work performance. Rather than sack him, Muir’s manager moves his youthful employee to another branch ‘in the highlands’. Shortly after this second relocation, Muir becomes infatuated with a beautiful dark-skinned woman named Margaret. Is this infatuation genuine or a by-product of Muir’s raging hormones? How will his desire for Margaret be received by the island’s xenophobic residents?